KOTA TINGGI: Environmental groups have urged the new state government to solve the long-standing oil spill problem in Johor.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Johor committee member Dr Sharan Sambhi said the state’s eastern coastline had been particularly prone to this problem because of the high number of international ships plying the route.
She said a group of non-governmental organisations, including MNS, StarSeed Solar Village and Selamat Sungai-Sungai Johor (Save Johor Rivers) had expressed their eagerness to work closely with the new administration to address the issue.
“It is high time we set up an early detection system as well as an emergency response team that can quickly combat oil spills in Johor,” she told StarMetro during a site visit to Tanjung Sutera near here where an oil spill was detected in March.
She said the groups’ extensive network comprising fishermen, villagers and tour operators could play a major role in the detection and emergency response stages.
She added that engaging them to be the eyes and ears was important as by the time oil sludge hit the coastline, it would be too late to detect the source of the oil spill and the culprits would have fled.
For example, Dr Sharan said the oil spill in March hit an almost 80km stretch of the coastline from Tanjung Balau near Benut to Tanjung Leman, including popular beaches in Tanjung Temalah and Pulau Sibu.
“What saddens me most is that nothing was done after we raised this to the relevant authorities.
“The oil sludge is still visible on the beach and rocks till now. It is not only an eyesore but also very damaging to the environment,” she said.
Environmentalists are especially concerned because oil spill will seriously affect a sanctuary for the critically-endangered dugong located near Pulau Sibu, about 10km from Tanjung Leman.
Villager Jemah Musa, 64, from Kampung Tanjung Sutera, said oil spills had been common since 40 years ago.
“I have lived here all my life. This problem has turned from bad to worse, and happens even more frequently in recent years,” she said.
She said one of the worst spillages happened in December, damaging fishing nets and equipment of over 300 fishermen from the Sedili area.
“My husband was also badly affected, there was no way to remove the sludge from our equipment which we had to eventually dispose of,” she said, adding that many fishermen suffered losses of up to several thousands of ringgit.
Newly-appointed Health, Environment and Agriculture executive chairman Dr Sahruddin Jamal, when contacted, said he was still new to the position and would need time to discuss with relevant agencies before commenting on the matter.